There’s something different about high school sports.
By Asia Mape
Twice now in two weeks, I’ve seen my daughter cry on the soccer field; no sob really would be the best way to describe it.
I don’t recall seeing her cry one time in 8-years of club soccer.
This is different. This matters.
There is something different about high school sports.
Don’t get me wrong, club soccer matters, just not in the same way. Club soccer has been an amazing experience and has mattered greatly in my daughter’s development. We consider our club team like our family. And she wouldn’t be the soccer player she is today without the incredible training she’s gotten from club soccer. She wouldn’t have been recruited to play soccer at The Ohio State University. She wouldn’t have developed a work ethic and tenacity if it wasn’t for club.
But, when it comes to playing with her heart on her sleeve, playing for her teammates and her coaches, for school pride, and playing for a greater purpose. Well, then, it’s all about high school.
Playing with all different ages is a gift.
Throughout the four years of being on her high school team, she has been the youngest, schlepping the balls around, wide-eyed, soaking it all in, to now being a captain and the unofficial team mom. Every year she’s taken on more and more leadership and responsibility. She and her co-captain currently advise our very young team on boyfriend questions and friend drama; they bring them food when they forget it before a game and give them rides when they need it. My typically somewhat no-nonsense, nose-to-the-ground, taking-care-of-business girl has been asked to stretch way out of her comfort zone, and she has risen to the challenge.
Competition is a great tool to develop skills on the field; camaraderie develops your love for the game.
Club soccer is a blur of rotating teammates, coaches, and millions of games that typically take upwards of 2-hours to travel to. High school was mostly local, playing girls she knows (often club teammates) and traveling no more than ten to fifteen minutes from home. To be on a top club team means creating the best team, which then puts you in this awkward position of pitting you against your teammates once a year during tryouts – as cuts are made every single year. Yes, there are cuts in high school as well, but typically once you make the team, you are good for the duration. In club, you battle internally for playing time and finally for the attention of colleges. You play at showcases where individualism reigns supreme, and it can be dog-eat-dog, even among teammates. Competition defines a club; camaraderie defines a high school team. In high school, classmates, the boys’ soccer team, their teachers, and the faculty all come to cheer them on. The girls are playing for so much more than themselves. They are playing for an entire community. In club, it’s pretty much just the parents and occasionally grandparents on the sidelines.
Related Article: How To Parent Kids Who Play Club Sports With Grace
Taking on new roles and learning new skills.
In high school, she was given more responsibility. Oftentimes you are asked to play different positions and take on new roles. My daughter’s coach leaned on her and asked her to step up in ways she wasn’t used to. He wanted our defensive-minded holding mid to be a goal scorer. She became that. It’s funny how when someone has high expectations, we climb to meet them. He wanted her engaged and involved in ways she’s never been asked to contribute on club. Our club team never had a captain, and now, she has learned she can lead. Watching her grow by leaps and bounds right before our eyes has been an incredible joy.
Two times a week, the high school team eats dinner together – the night before each and every game. They watch film, support the 7th-grade soccer team, and watch the boys’ team play when they can. Nearly every single one of her teammates showed up for her, and her co-captain at their 7:30 am signing day in the gym. It meant so much to them to have nearly their entire team there. And I would be remiss not to mention – several of her club soccer teammates and their parents came to support her high school games occasionally as well. After playing together for 8-years, we really do love and appreciate our club family.
Related Article: Confessions Of A Club Soccer Player
They weren’t tears of joy, but still, I couldn’t have been more proud.
This team, this year, was special. They were ranked at the top in our state and the country, and they were loaded with great players. The girls had an amazing season. The team made it to the semi-finals of the Section and to the State regionals. They came up short both times. And so I watched awkwardly from the stands as my girl cried her eyes out after both losses. This was a new experience, and I didn’t know exactly what to do. Go to her? Or let her feel all of what this moment entailed. She and her team had an incredible season, and while I was so proud of all they accomplished, nothing could have made me more proud than watching her feel deeply the love and loss of what it means when you really care about something. This is what sports are all about. This is what made her high school experience so meaningful.
Asia Mape is a 4-time Emmy Award-winning sports journalist and founder of Ilovetowatchyouplay.com, a digital platform that has served millions of parents and coaches as a guide and resource for raising healthy, happy, and successful athletes. Ilovetowatchyouplay.com has been featured in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Today Show, Bleacher Report, Inc., NFL.com, and Sports Illustrated.
The mother of three daughters who play or played sports, and a former division 1 basketball player, Asia has dedicated the greater part of the last 14 years to her daughters’ various activities, a combination of club soccer, basketball, field hockey, volleyball, and water polo. She has schlepped her kids to some 7-8 practices a week and attended tournaments or games most weekends. Most of the time, she has loved it, but along the way, she often wondered whether there wasn’t a better way. This question was the genesis of I Love To Watch You Play. Linktree